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A collection of bedtime stories - or sharpshooter tales

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by 4v50 Gary, Jan 3, 2003.

  1. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Anudder bedtime storey

    Hystery can be so embellished that we are led to believe that all our forbears were nobly endowed with courage, strength, wisdom and determination. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, it was said that General Whipple was killed by a sharpshooter while writing instructions to his men on how to dispose of said sharpshooter who was pinning them down. Certainly sounds gallant enough, doesn't it? Here he is, mounted atop a horse, calm in the face of enemy fire, bent over scrawling with a pencil on a piece of paper calming writing instructions. Baloney!

    In my readings, I found a first hand account that tells something that most hysterians overlook or just don't think worthy enough to share to we unlearned mortals. Enjoy.

    "About one P. M. General Whipple, General Hooker's Engineer officer, came out to where we were and leisurely walked his horse along our breastworks. He was at once cautioned by the officers and advised at least to dismount, but being so much under the influence of liquor as to be scarcely able to sit on his horse, he did not heed nor reply but walked along to the right of our regiment, where, halting his horse and facing the enemy, he swayed backwards and forwards in his saddle. Capt. Crocker had just remarked that the General was very drunk, when we saw the dust fly from his clothes and himself fall off his horse. Running to where he lay we found that he had been shot through the stomach and bowels, the bullet coming out at the small of the back."

    I suppose it's bad juju to laugh at another's misfortune. As a point of order, Whipple was the Division Commander of the Third Division, Third Corps (Sickle's) in the Army of the Potomac.
     
  2. Soap

    Soap Member

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    Wow! Interesting tidbit!
     
  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    "...And may the Lord have mercy on your soul."

    Here's one for Preacherman. It's not the type of blessing any of us would want. After all, while many of us want to meet Big J, we'd rather not do so before our ticket is punched. The following is an account I dug up in my reseach and I think it is worthy to share here (I'll probably merge it with the sharpshooter thread in the Blackpowder Forum later). So, without further blah blah, here's the inspirational message for the day:

    "In one of the Indiana regiments (at Carrick's Ford, West Virginia, July 13, 1861) was a Methodist preacher, said to be one of the very best shots in the regiment. During the battle, he was particularly conspicuous for the zeal with which he kept up a constant fire. The 14th Ohio Regiment, in the thick of the fight, fired an average of eleven rounds to every man, but this parson managed to get in a great deal more than that average. He fired carefully, with perfect coolness, and always after a steady aim, and the boys declare that every time, as he took down his gun, after he fired, he added, "And may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
     
  4. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    Hmmm... his aim was good, and he aimed good too! :D
     
  5. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

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    ain't got to hate anybody, even the enemy. Reckon they may think they're doing their job, too.

    John
     
  6. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Dubious, but I'll share it anyway...

    The following story is from General John B. Gordon who penned his memoirs, Reminiscences of the Civil War, after the war and during the period of reconcilation between North & South. It's interesting but strikes me as dubious as to authenticity. The scene is Appomttaox where Sheridan's Cavalry and the Union V Corps cuts Lee's Army of Northern Virginia off from further retreat. Famished, supplies low, there is but little choice for Lee than to surrender. General Gordon:

    "In a short time thereafter a white flag was seen approaching. Under it was Philip Sheridan, accompanied by a mounted escort almost as large as one of Fitz Lee's regiments. Sheridan was mounted on an enormous horse, a handsome animal. He rode in front of the escort, an ordely carrying the flag rode beside him. Around me at that time were my faithful sharpshooters, and as General Sheridan and his escort came within easy range of the rifles, a half-witted fellow raised his gun as if to fire. I ordered him to lower his gun, and explained that he must not fire on a flag of truce. He did not obey my order cheerfully, but held his rifle in position to be quickly thrown to his shoulder. In fact, he was again in the act of raising his gun to fire at Sheridan, when I caught the gun and said to him, with emphasis, that he must not shoot men under the flag of truce. He at once protested: 'Well, general, let him stay on his own side.'

    "I did not tell General Sheridan of his narrow escape. Had he known the facts, - that this weak-minded but strong hearted Confederate priveate was one of the deadliest of marksmen, - he probably would have realized that I had saved his life."


    O.K. Today I finished reading Vol. II of Sheridan's Memoirs. Guess what? On April 9th he says he was riding up to meet the Confederates when he saw some men @ 150 yards distance level their guns at him. He stopped immediately and their officers caused them to desist from firing. He sent his aide up to confer with them and the aide returns and identifies the officers as General Wilcox and General Gordon. My apologies for my skepticism but what Gordon said was true after all. :eek:
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2004
  7. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Payback

    At Fredericksburg, the Washington Artillery of New Orleans originally defended Marye's Heights against the Federal assault. When their ammunition was low, Col. E. Porter Alexander's battalion was called up by Longstreet to relieve them.

    Before he was called to action though, Alexander was subjected to sharpshooter fire from the brick tanyard that was right across the creek that separated Mayre's Heights from Fredericksburg proper. We hear from Col. Alexander:

    "I remember the day as a very disagreeable one, for I had to move about a great deal, having guns at som many different places; & the sharpshooting & shelling everywhere made me quite unhappy. There was a particularly bad nest of sharpshooters in a brick tanyard, on the east side of the Plank Road, where it crossed the little canal. They cut regular loop-holes through the brick walls & from them they had a very annoying fire on certain parts of our line. And the loop hole in the corner on the Plank Road could see up the road some 300 yadrs to where our line crossed the road, & as we had built no breast-work, or obstruction, across it the fellow at the loophole had a fair shot at every man who crossed. To be sure a man could run across, but the sharpshooter kept his gun already sighted at the spot, & his finger on the trigger, & he only had to pull & the well aimed bullet was on its way. He had several shots at me during the day, & though he missed me every time, I acquired a special animosity to him...

    "I visited Longstreet's headquarters, & having told how they had had us under hack all day in sharpshooting & shelling, becuase we were saving ammunition, Gen. Longstreet gave me permission to use a few score shell the next day to get even with them...

    "...Monday morning was again thick and hazy, but when the sun was about an hour high the nest of sharpshooters in the tanyard announced their ability to see by opening a very lively fusillade. I happened to be nearby, & I at once determined to try & rout them... I got the line of the obnoxious corner loophole on the roof & sighted in on that line, & then fixed an elevation which I thought would just carry the shell over the low hill, aiming myself, & taking several minutes to get all exact. Then I ordered fire. Standing behind we could see the shell almost brush the grass, as it curved over the hill, & then we heard her strike & explode. At once there came a cheer from our picket line in front of the hill, & presently there came running up an excited fellow to tell us. He called out as he came - 'That got 'em! That got 'em! You can hear them just a hollering & a groaning in there.'

    "I examined the place the next day, after the enemy had left. I made a perfect shot. The shell struck within a foot of the corner loop hole, making a clean hole over a foot in diameter, & exploding as it went in. It knocked off most of the head of a sharp shooter, & the walls of the room on all sides were scarred by fragments of shell & brick. They left his body in the room, & doubtless others were wounded by fragments, from the account of the groaning, but were carried off. But not another shot was fired from the tanyard that day, & in a very little while orders were evidently extended over their whole line to cease sharpshooting."

    If you saw Gods & Generals (I'm sorry), Alexander is the fellow who says to Lee "a chicken couldn't live in that field when we open on it." More accurately it was said by Alexander to Longstreet but that's the magic of movies.:rolleyes: Alexander was also featured in Gettysburg and he was the artillery colonel who bombarded the Union center before Pickett's charge.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2003
  8. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Gary;

    Just wanted to drop a post and say that I've really enjoyed these stories. It's nice to make the historical association between the guns and the men that used them.

    Thanks again.

    The Old Fuff.
     
  9. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Send in the clowns!

    Remember reading some of those early stories on recruiting snipers? Units in 'Nam would be called upon to send recruits for sniper training. Typically, rather than send the soldier who shot Expert and was skilled in hunting, target shooting and good in woodcraft, they took the opportunity to send the ****birds. Well, that's traditional folks and here's something from the Civil War.

    On Aug. 2, 1863, Brig. General Terry, commanding the U.S. Forces on Morris Island issued an order: "[T]he commanding officer of each regiment at this post will select from his command, to the extent of 2 per cent of the number reported 'present for duty,' those enlisted men who have proved themselves the best marksmen, and from the company officers that one who is most skillful in this respect, forwarding the names of such officers and men to Maj. Joshian L. Plimpton, Third New Hampshire Volunteers, assistant inspector-general. The officers so selected will report with the best rifle he can procure and its corresponding ammunition to Major Plimpton, at his office near these headquarters, at 2 p.m. to-morrow."

    Well, the regimental commanders sent their "best" and were probably very very happy for it. Unfortunately for their, the charade was soon discovered as is evidenced by this letter two days later from an Aug. 4, 1863 letter from Capt. T. B. Brooks, Aide-de-Camp & Assistant Engineer to General Terry, Commander of Union Forces on Morris Island, S.C.:

    "General: I have the honor to submit the following concerning sharpshooters, for offensive and defensive operations, in the advanced works under my charge: The present so-called sharpshooters are inefficient. First, they are not good shots; second, their arms are not in good condition; third, they are not in sufficient numbers, even if they were efficient; fourth they are not properly officered..."

    In case you didn't already know, a lot of Confederate units did the same thing in 1862. Human nature hasn't changed. :D
     
  10. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Beware the Spainard...

    When Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph as King, the Spaniards weren't all that delighted. Ungrateful at the substitution of a Buonaparte for a Hapsburg, they took up arms and Napoleon found it necessary to crush the "upstarts."

    The Spaniards at Rodrigo were audacious enough to shut themselves up within their city - necessitating a siege. One young soldier recorded their fun with a Spanish marksman. I share it with you now:

    "As long as the Spaniards kept possession of the suburb, upon which the left flank of our battery rested, they did us great mischief, as they well understood the use of the rifle. A few marksmen, posted in a small steeple, particularly distinguished themselves by their dexterity; one above all the others, named Manuel, was an unerring shot, and the greatest caution was necessary when he was at this post. The garrison were incessantly calling out to him: 'Manuel tira!' (fire, Manuel.) We by way of joke, used often to call out to him ourselves. Aftewards, some batteries being erected close to the suburb, the Spaniards withdrew into the fortress, and we were no longer annoyed from this quarter."
     
  11. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Here's one for Kaylee

    Since she asked about the Lawrence Pellet Priming system for the 1859 Sharps rifle. Here's an account from a Berdan Sharpshooter:

    "I was watching for the smoke of a Rebel, when I discovered a mound of earth some little ways out in front of me. I noticed something that looked like a rifle sticking up from the other side of the earth. I soon discovered that the rifle moved and I sent a bullet at the rifle. It struck the earth just at the top, very close to the rifle barrel. The effects of the shot stirred up a commotion. I saw a second rifle and I knew there were two rebels in the hole and I thought they were about to run away. I then gave them, or their earth protection, another bullet. There was more commotion and I was puzzled and somewhat doubtful what to do. Finally, I put several bullets into their bank of earth, so they thought there must be several Yankees on them, thanks to my breech loading-rifle.

    "They did not dare to run or fire for they saw that I could hit them sure if I got sight of them. After I had given them several shots in quick succesion, they made signs that they wanted to surrender. Then I called to them to come in and judge my surprise when five big Rebels came out of the den, one after the other."
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2003
  12. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Keeping the peace

    During the Civil War, it was not unusual for the belligerents to cease fire, allow men to climb out of their rifle pits, stretch, answer to the calls of nature, cook their food, and perhaps even exchange tobacco & coffee or newspapers. These impromptu cease-fires were generally honored by both sides. Here's one time it wasn't at Petersburg:

    "Late this evening, some man of Davis' Brigade, which is just on our left, perpetrated a cowardly act unworthy of a white man. Since sharpshooting has recommenced, it has been customary for both sides to cease operations just after sunset for about an hour, of which both sides took advantage to relieve their pickets. It also allowed the men in the works a short respite at least during which to walk about without being constantly reminded of broken heads and shattered limbs by the whistling of 'Minies.' But this evening after the firing had ceased, and while all the pickets were out of their holes in the fancied security of each of the others honor, this man of Davis' Brigade deliberately took aim and shot one of the enemy, the ball striking him in the forehead, no doubt killing him instantly. Now while I believe in the abstract principle of killing a Yankee where ever one is found on our soil, yet in such a case as this, it was not only brutal, but dishonorable in the extreme."

    The next day a Union sharpshooter exacted revenge:

    "The enemy have taken revenge for the affair of last evening. This evening some fifteen or twenty minutes after the usual cessation, and while our men were walking about, a single shot was fired from the Yankee line which struck a poor fellow from Perry's Brigade in the left side below the ribs and passed entirely through him. He died in about five minutes. I have no doubt but that this was done in retaliation, and as it is usual in such cases, the innonent suffer for the guilty."
     
  13. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Sorry, no story tonight. However, if you guys got any historic stories to share, please do. Must be something besides Billy Dixon & Jack Bean in the post-Civil War westward expansion.
     
  14. S_O_Laban

    S_O_Laban Member

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    Thanks Gary, I had forgot about this thread. Some interesting stuff.
     
  15. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Flushing out sharpshooters

    When you're entrenched and the other guy, like yourself, is patiently waiting for a careless move so he can send a leaden missile to relieve you of your wordly concerns, sometimes it helps to have friends who inspire him to "jump" first. From a book (which I'll decline to identify) written by a Confederate:

    "Some fellows in the second pit on my right thought up a plan to flush the Yanks out of their pits and give us a shot at them. They made a mortar by burning out the end of a log; using the process common in the South to make a mortar to hull rice. The batteries gave them some shells, cannon powder and fuse. When ready, word passed along the line to 'Stand to your guns and look out while we flush 'em.' Then they fired off the mortar. The shell did not go very high, but sailed along over the rifle pits of the Yanks as if it was looking for a good place to land. Every pit that it passed over turned out two men who thought theirs was the selected target. And in the excitement we got in some telling shots."

    A counter was found, but I'll save that for another day.
     
  16. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    From one soldier serving with Sherman's Army during the Atlanta Campaign:

    "Skirmishing was an everday business with us. At no time were we out of earshot of guns. The popping of rifles was incessant and hourly some poor fellow received a shot which ended his career as a solider.

    "An erroneous idea prevailed that the enemy had superior rifles, superior ammunition and, with the hands of expert riflemen, were doing this shooting. The fact was their arms, as a general rule, were but the ordinary smoothbore muskets. I took special pains to determine an answer to the question, searching the field after the battle, examining captured arms, and only in one instance saw anything different. On the field after the battle of Peachtree Creek, I found in one cartridge box cartridges of superior make. The paper wrappers were white and strong and the powder of better quality than ours. I at once pronounced them to be of English manufacture. The enemy had a similar idea concerning us, that we had marksmen armed with rifles having telescopic sights. Our Eastern army had a few such weapons, but I only saw one man so armed in our Western army."


    The Confederates did have men equipped with superior rifles and ammunition. These were the Whitworth sharpshooter who operated apart from the normal brigade sharpshooter. The Whitworth sharpshooters selected their own ground where they felt they could be most effective. With the Union naval blockade, very few of these guns ever reached the Confederacy and their capture was virtually unheard of.
     
  17. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    periscope rifles

    We're aware of the periscope rifle during WW I. Those are the rifles with the modified stocks and periscopes that allowed the shooter to shoot from the safety of the trench and without exposing himself to counterfire. Examples are displayed at Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Well, credit for the first such rifles must go to the Civil War Americans who attached mirrors to their buttstocks at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. The better shooters even learned to deflect their bullets by hitting at the bottom of the headlogs and deflecting them into the Confederate trenches. Needless to say, this did little to endear the "damned Yankees" to their Confederate brethen.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2003
  18. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Expert stalking

    "We marched several miles and drove in their pickets, which were nearly a mile in front of their breastworks, and saw a Reb that one of the Company F Indians had taken prisoner. He was the most disgusted Reb I ever saw. He was behind some rails they had pile up to protect them, and out in front was an open field with big stones, some higher than a man, and near the woods, which were big trees and no underbrush. He said he saw the Indian go behind the stone, and was waiting for him to come out to get a shot at him, when the first thing he knew the Indian's gun came over the end of the rails and there was nothing to do but to surrender. He asked the Indian if he was the one that went behind the stone. The Indian said he was, but wouldn't tell the Reb how he go out without being seen. The Reb said he had read of the Indians doing such things, but didn't believe such yarns, but had to believe it this time. He said he didn't care so much about being taken prisoner, but hated to have such a game as that played on him. The Indian just laughed at him as did the rest of us."

    Good woodcraft made it possible. Are you camouflaged, moving slowly to avoid detection and taking every advantage of the terrain for cover and concealment?
     
  19. ojibweindian

    ojibweindian Member

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    LOVE IT!:D

    You know, when out in the woods squirrel hunting, I am absolutely amazed at the noise my hunting buddies make, and I have a bad case of tinitus!

    When I was a kid, I would practice sneaking up on cats, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, and birds while at home or in the woods. Got pretty good at it; it was a fun game. My daughter is pretty good at it, too. I once saw her sneak up to within 10 yards of a cotton tail rabbit before it noticed her, and she was 7 at the time.

    You can sneak up on pretty much anything with enough patience and a little luck:D
     
  20. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Not everybody feared Berdan's Sharsphooters

    One Rebel officer's view of Berdan's Sharsphooters:

    "Did you ever see any of those globe or telescopic-sighted rifles, exclusively used by Berdan's battalions of sharpshooters in the Federal army? They are a very accurate weapon, but expensive, I am told; yet the Federals have not done much mischief with them. The men are trained to climb trees, lie on their back, crawl rapidly through the grass, have grass-green pantaloons to prevent detection, etc.; but with all the usual systematic boasting regarding them, out Texans and others are more than a match for them. We have picked off a greater number of them than we have ourselves lost by their wonderful shooting; but as our men do not waste much time in skirmishing, but hasten to 'close quarters, " I have not heard much of them for some time, although a few months since nothing was talked of, North, but the extraordinary achievements of 'Berdan's Sharpshooters.' To believe their reports, nearly every general in our army has fallen under their 'unerring aim.' The best sharpshooters with us are to be found among the Missourians, Texans, Arkansans, Mississippians, and Alabamians - men accusotmed to woods and swamps and to Indian warfare."

    note: Probably written sometime in 1862.
     
  21. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Fort Donelson (Feb. 1862)

    "A little before dawn Birge's sharp-shooters were astir. Theirs was a peculiar service. Each was a preferred marksman, and carried a long-range Henry rifle, with sights delicately arranged as for target practice. In action each was perfectly independent. They never maneuvered as a corps. When the time came they were asked, "Canteens full?" "Biscuits for all day?" Then their only order, "All right; hunt your holes, boys." Thereupon they disperesed, and, like Indians, sought cover to please themselves behind rocks and stumps, or in hllows. Sometimes they dug holes; sometimes they climbed into trees. Once in a good location, they remained there all day. At night they would crawl out and report in camp."

    Birge's Western Sharpshooters, later renamed the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was authorized by Gen. John Charles Fremont. The author of the statement, Gen. Lew Wallace (author of "Ben Hur") is not entirely accurate in that they carried sporting guns and about 450 Dimick rifles (think Plains rifles in appearance) were procured by them. The Henry rifles came later and each sharpshooter bought his own (gubmint provided the fodder). As it was a siege, the Sharpshooters made life miserable for the defending Confederates. Mind you, sometimes the Confederates gave as good as they got during the siege. One sharpshooter (unit unknown) was spotted in a tree so applying Rule 2 & Rule 3 of gunfighting (bring a bigger gun and bring all your friends with guns), a 12 pdr cannon was found and using solid shot, they blasted the tree from 3/4 of a mile away. Needless to say, the Federal sharpshooter tumbled from his roost.
     
  22. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Keep the peace!

    Nifty little snippet about why not to kill one another.

    "It was comparatively quiet on his part of the line, but another man in the company got behind a tree, a little in advance of the line, and was exchanging shots with a blue-coated sharp-shooter, when Smith said, "Tom, what in the Devil do you mean?" Tom replied, "Why, I want to kill that Yankee sharp-shooter." Smith said, "You are a fool! Don't you know that if you kill him that you will make some of them fellows over there mad, and they wil disturb our rest over here all the time?" It never pays to do wrong to sptie some one for having acted likewise. This is true of armies as well as individuals.
     
  23. ojibweindian

    ojibweindian Member

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    Gary

    A 12 pdr to kill a sharpshooter? :what:
     
  24. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Objibweindian: The ability of riflemen to harass artillery predates the American Civil War. We saw it at Saratoga when Morgan's riflemen decimated the British artillery crews there. The British riflemen did the same in Spain during the Peninsular War.

    By the time of the American Civil War, the rifled musket increased the "potential" of the common infantryman. In the hands of a sharpshooter, a battery could be silenced. Thus, it was not unusual for a gun to engage a singular sharpshooter to remove the annoyance. One general knew this and sent his sharpshooters out to determine the capability of his opponent's artillery. He then fought his battle accordingly. It is not that artillery development lagged behind that of small arms. Rifled cannons were around in plenty of numbers but so was the smoothbore 12 pdr Napoleon. If an artillery piece came within range of the infantryman (500 yards or less), the crew could easily be shot down. Thus, if a gun crew wanted to survive and didn't have to engage in an artillery fight, it would remove its most immediate threat: the sharpshooter.

    The book will discuss this more fully and there is no shortage of examples in it.
     
  25. ojibweindian

    ojibweindian Member

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    Gary

    Very fascinating. I was thinking, after reading the post describing the use of a 12pdr to kill a sharpshooter, that was some serious over-kill.

    I had no idea sharpshooters were such a threat to artillery.
     

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